Baltimore Bridge Disaster Unveils Hazardous Cargo Aboard Ship

On Wednesday, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Jennifer Homendy, revealed that hazardous materials were aboard the cargo ship involved in the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge over the Port of Baltimore. Homendy said that, when the ship crashed into the bridge, it breached several hazmat containers and spilled hazardous materials into the waterway.

“He was able to identify 56 containers of hazardous materials,” said Homendy, adding “that’s 764 tons of hazardous materials, mostly corrosives, flammables, as well as miscellaneous hazardous materials.”

Following the collapse, Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA) of Georgia called for rolling back regulations on infrastructure projects to expedite the rebuilding process. “We must ease the regulatory burdens of NEPA to get this critical bridge back up as soon as possible. And while we are at it, revise the permitting process for all infrastructure projects and improvements,” Rep. Collins said in a tweet.

Homendy confirmed that the voyage data recorder had been recovered and turned over by the Coast Guard, adding that while it would take approximately 12 to 24 months to complete the investigation, she would issue any important safety recommendations immediately.

The NTSB conducted interviews with the ship’s crew and recovered information from its electronics and paperwork. Homendy disclosed, “Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board boarded the ship to recover information from its electronics and paperwork and to do interviews with the captain and other crew members.” Twenty-three individuals, including two pilots, were onboard during the collision, according to Homendy.

The investigation into the collapse of the bridge in Baltimore is still underway as authorities work diligently to piece together the details surrounding the tragic event. Officials hope to produce a draft report in the next two to four weeks, covering what happened until and after the crash and the subsequent collapse.

Speaking at a Wednesday-night news briefing, Homendy underlined the scale of the recovery work, stressing “It’s a massive undertaking for an investigation. It’s a very tragic event.” She noted that the waterway has a “sheen” which could have toxic implications for the environment due to the escape of contaminants.

The ship’s crew sent out a mayday call early on Tuesday, reporting that the ship had lost power and steering just before hitting one of the bridge’s columns. The call was quickly answered by a swift salvage effort that recovered eight people from the water. Two more were rescued later on Tuesday, while two more on Wednesday were recovered from a red pickup submerged underneath the vehicle.

President Joe Biden – who is seeking re-election – has stated that it his “intention” that the federal government will pay the full cost of replacing the bridge and expects the legislature to follow through on his effort.